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The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)

Leo L. Bailey, Jr. (K5AVJ) on January 12, 2001
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The Ticket Arrives!!!

At the age of 12, I studied for my Novice class license & under the scrutiny of Mickey Edens, K5QWT, I took my code & written test in January 1960. As I waited for ticket to arrive, I began to study the various transmitter options & soon settled on the Heathkit DX-40 for $64.95.

My dad was a college professor with a growing family of 4 kids & limited funds were available for hobbies. Dad had grown up through the Great Depression and he was never frivolous with his money. We struck a deal to get the transmitter but there was no money for a receiver.

The DX-40 was a rig that was tailor made for a new Novice with ambitions to upgrade. After all, in 1960, the Novice license was only good for 1 year & it was non-renewable. A new Novice had one year to increase his code speed from 5 wpm to 13 wpm & to study up on the theory, memorizing 6-10 schematics for oscillators, full & half-wave rectifiers, plus learning additional formulas & regulations. It was imperative that I get my ham shack assembled & get on the air so I could begin to ramp up my code speed.

Heathkit introduced the DX-40 in January 1958. Designed for 80 to 10 meter ham bands, it used stacked B+ for the oscillator and buffer tubes (both 6CL6's). The final amplifier tube was a 6146 rated at 75 watts CW or 60 watts AM phone. A switch on the rear panel selected between one of three crystals or an optional, external VFO. There were 6 tubes altogether & and plate voltage on the final amplifier was 710 volts. I measured it personally & the `zap' burned a little hole in my palm & set me back on my britches to ponder my destiny.

Having been introduced to radio kit building with the Knightkit Space Spanner, I was able to construct the DX-40 with very little trouble. Since Novices did not have phone privileges on the HF bands, I didn't need a mike, but I did need some crystals. I opted for 7176 kHz, which was in the middle of the 40 meter Novice band, 7150-7200 kHz. For 15 meters, I ordered a 7040 kHz rock which tripled up to 21,120 kHz in the Novice band.

I quickly learned that the Space Spanner regenerative receiver was unstable, broad, and limited in capability. A family friend loaned us a Hallicrafters portable shortwave radio that was fine for a starter communications receiver. It was full of 1 volt filament tubes that were overwhelmed by the RF from the nearby DX-40 transmitter. My weekly allowance of $1.25 was spent each week replacing the RF amplifier tube in the receiver.

For an antenna, I constructed a wave 40 meter, inverted V, which I used on 40 & 15 meters. I did not have a coaxial antenna relay to switch between the receiver & transmitter so I used a knife switch.......a ready source of RF burns.

About 6 weeks after passing my exam, an envelope arrived from the FCC, and I anxiously opened it to find that my new ham call was KN5AVJ. The N meant that I was Novice & when and if I upgraded to a General class license, my call would become K5AVJ.

During the 6 weeks since I had passed my exam, I believe that my code speed had dropped by 50 %. My early attempts at QSO's were exciting and frustrating as I had to ask the sender to repeat their QTH's & handles. During those early months, some of the local & Texas hams that I worked were K5VVV-Rio Grande Valley, K5EJR-Juanita in Freer, K5CGO-Roy, Kingsville, K5SBU-Ric, Alice, K5FKT-Ray, Kingsville, WA5ABN-Darwin, Kingsville, and WA5EZB-Dee, Kingsville.

A typical QSO went like this......K5QWT de KN5AVJ rrr om es tnx fer the call - ur rst is 599 599 - QTH is Kingsville, TX - name is leo leo - so hw cpy om AR K5QWT de KN5AVJ K. Other entries included WX and rig/antenna.

Although I go by my middle name, Lynn, I found that on the CW (A-1) mode, many hams would send me love & kisses (88) at the end of a QSO because they thought I was a young lady (YL). Consequently, I resorted to my first name for CW contacts & even today, many of my ham friends from the early 60's still call me, Leo.

Using the DX-40 was also a new experience for me. The grid current had to be set to 3 mA and then the plate current needed to be dipped and raised alternatively with the antenna tune & final tune controls. The input power was the product of the resulting plate current times the plate voltage. Before initiating a CQ, I would place the transmitter in the tune (very low power) and key down the straight key while tuning my receiver to locate my transmit frequency. There was no such thing as digital frequency readout & only more expensive receivers had 100 kHz calibrators and accurate analog scales.

Chasing DX was fun and I found that there was some success on 15 meters but the better hunting was done on 40 meters at about 4 AM. The first Canadian & South American stations were great break-throughs.

The Novice year was very exciting and gratifying for me. Within 9 months, I would take and pass my General class license but those months of CW-only made me appreciate the concentration and patience required making contacts.

Since 1960, I have enjoyed 40 years of ham radio using the AM, SSB, AMTOR, & PACTOR modes, but I still find that there is a special satisfaction associated with using low-power CW under adverse conditions to contact a ham across the state or half-way around the world. Today, I have a great appreciation for those early Elmers, K5QWT-Mickey, and K5SBU-Ric, who inspired me become a ham and helped me with the code and theory.

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The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by AF4K on January 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Great story.

THANK YOU for taking the time to publish a nice memory!

If anyone is interested, there is a lot more information about the early novice tube rigs like that DX-40 etc. at the Open Directory of Boatanchors. I am not sure if it is OK to post URLs here, but I will try!

It is at:

We have information on over 700 articles. Non-commercial and no charge.

I hope someone enjoys it!

73 de AF4K

The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by KA2VTI on January 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article! For me the article evoked my earliest memories at attempting to learn the code and getting on the air. I was transported back to my first cautious "Dit's and Dah's" and the "Horror" of someone coming back at an alarming speed as I read on. I could see in my minds eye the "Boat Anchor" that was on loan to me from my elmer Frank Leanord W2NPT (SK) and the old operating position in the house where I grew up, great memories! As Old Bob Hope sang "Thanks for the Memories" and 73 all!
RE: The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by W3WW on January 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks Leo

That was me in 1958, only with a DX-20 and an AR-3 receiver, knife switch and all. Your sharing that story brings back those memories of fighting for a contact and the thrill of achieving one. One slight bump of my desk sent my AR-3 off to another band. CW was my life, took its toll on my school work and all. My parents never understood why I kept trying to talk in code, day and night, even while I was sleeping. To this day I still love CW and have to have that "CW fix" every morning before venturing out to work. Thanks again leo for the fond memories.

Take Care,

Don W3WW
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by KB6TRR on January 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Great story, it brought back a lot of memories. My first rig was a DX 60 which I built from a kit and the matching VFO. In the almost 40 years since I started in Ham Radio with some time off for school, Vietnam, marriage,kids and a mortgage, I have kept that rig, and it still works very well albeit with a bit of drift if you don't let it warm up for about 30 minutes. I milked cows one entire summer for a local dairy to get enough money to buy a Hallicrafters HQ-145 receiver, if I recall, it I paid around $270 a kings ransom in the early 60's for a kid, I wish I had kept that too.

To keep from bugging my younger brother I built a "radio tent" in our bedroom as an operating station.It had all of the appropriate "Danger Keep Out" and "Lethal High Voltage" signs I could get my hands on. The antenna was a dipole for transmiting, and my receiving antenna was a longwire about 600 yards long. Boy, the things I would hear but couldn't work. But those I could work more than made up for it even as a novice.

That early start contributed to my career choice as an electrical engineer, a career that still allows me to enjoy going to work in the morning.
Leo (KB6TRR)
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1961)  
by WA4CNG on January 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Mine arrived in 1961. Bought a DX40 and VFO used from a Ham friend. Negotiated a Hammurland HQ-100A from my parents, 2 crystals later, plus a dipole antenna and I am on 40CW. Had to grind one of the crystals up to the 7180 section of the band where most of the stations were (used toothpaste). Worked my code speed up to 13WPM, took the Conditional (more than 100 miles from FCC) in 1962. Later moved up to a Galaxy V on all bands (mobile and fixed) including a tri-band beam on the roof. Got my own telephone extension in hamshack for 16th birthday. Still having a great time on all bands in 2001 with an Extra Class License, now awaiting the 1X3 call I could not get in 1962 as at that time I was getting the 2x3 of what I currently hold. I am now spending my time now helping build my area ARES group into the best that we can be. I had good Elmers then to help get me going, I am returning that now where I live now. Still living about 2 miles from the Chattahochee River where I grew up, only now I live 130 miles north of the original location.
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by W5HTW on January 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Memories are enhanced by time, yet, despite the fact we all got zapped here and there, a few RF burns, and some blown wallets, they were really fun. I'm not sure I would want to relive them.

My start was through some high school friends, David, then KN4EPR, Earl, K4EAI, Alan, K4DSC, and very importantly, Dee Stone, W4HTW. You will note my call is W5HTW, one of the choices when I decided to drop my old W0RKX after 16 years. Dee came to mind because he is the man, actually a high school senior (!) who put me on the air, by loaning me his homebrew 6AG7-6L6 40 meter transmitter and two crystals. I, too, used the knife switch, and a folded dipole of 300 ohm TV wire, a severe mismatch at the transmitter, but with 12 watts input, who was going to notice? The receiver was a misguided attempt by my father to help me, as he bought me a Silverton portable. The entire 40 meter band, CW and voice, was about a half inch long on the dial, and there was no BFO. My BFO became a portable AM radio which could be beat against the IF of the Silvertone (a technique I found in Popular Electronics.) With that rig, I worked 11 states in fairly short order. W4PHW, Dick, was the man who taught me the code and later administered the Novice test, and still later, the Technican test (one could hold both licenses in those days) and I received that small white envelope in June, 1956. I was now KN4JSG/K4JSG (I got the Tech so I could run the 6 meter Civil Defense radios!)

In 1957 I went to General, and upgraded to a "real" radio - a Hallicrafters S85, I bought (on time) with money I earned working after school at a dairy-soda bar in Denver, and became K0KPM. I also upgraded to ARC5 transmitters for both 80 and 40 meters.

Looking back, the hardships of the restricted Novice ticket, the strain of putting a four dollar World War II transmitter on the air, and of buying 25 cent 1625 tubes to keep it going, taught me things I could not have learned any other way. It led me to a career in electronics, part of which was spent as a government radio operator, where CW was stressed and required, and was used at 30 WPM Today I'm back down to 20 WPM, as the old fingers slow down more than I'd like.

The "good old days" were lessons to be learned. A few of them, like touching 800 VDC, or stepping on a hot soldering iron, taught attentiveness, probably contributing to a life that is longer than it could otherwise have been. They are not places I'd like to go again. But that crystal controlled 12 watt transmitter was one I will remember forever, though I have forgotten dozens of others.

Ham radio IS fun. It WAS fun, and it will continue to BE fun, regardless of class of license, level of test, or interest. Enjoy!

The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by AD6JN on January 15, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I was born the same year as you and it looks like I became interested in Amateur Radio about the same time.

I learned morse code from an Allied Radio record and studied for the novice test but never took it. I did a lot of SWL using an old Hallicrafters receiver and managed to scape enough cash together to by an Allied Radio regenerative receiver kit.

My Ham radio interest and self education in electronics at an early age carried me into my college education. I started out as an electrical major but earned a mechanical engineering degree.

In 1998 I became interested in Ham radio again and earned my Extra Class License in 1999. I had always wondered how 20 wpm was like and now I know.

CW has really helped me also in paying attention and listening to others talk and formulating a response. I would encourage those taking the 5 wpm test to increase their speed to 20 wpm as a personal challenge.

Leo, your story is very good. Thanks for helping me remember my beginings with Ham radio.


The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by K5AVJ on January 15, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks guys for sharing your varied but similar entries into ham radio. The short version of the "rest of the story" is that I passed (Sept '60) my General Class License about 7 months after I received my Novice Class License. Ten years later, I graduated from college with a BS in Electrical Engineering, and then about 1978, I upgraded to the Advanced Class License. I've been employed by same electric utility for 30 years

Now, my XYL has been my YL for 30 yr. & 5 kids, and as the kids leave the nest, I'm finding a little more time & $$$ to tinker w/radios again. (Got 2 in college right now, who am I fooling about the $$$)

Still would like to go for the Extra Class but so far that's just a wish & not a commitment.

73, Leo, K5AVJ
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by K8KS on January 15, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Leo, your article was precious, and eloquently written to boot. I was born and raised in post-war Japan, and went through similar adolescent radio passions, now indelibly imprinted into my memory. I went through the same ethereal dreams as you, albeit on the other side of the world. I surmise that I am about 2 years younger than you. My first transmitter was an 8-watt output, home-brew, three tube job with a 6L6-final. It had an exposed, uninsulated tank coil with 250 volts on it. It used to zap insects (both flying ones and creepy crawlers alike) that haplessly contacted the coil and chassis ground simultaneously. Although you Texans can boast of Texas-sized vermin, Leo, them Japanese flies and cockroaches got you beat good. Unfortunately for them, however, their size made them easy prey for my tank coil Venus flytrap. One of my month chores was to sweep the insect exoskeletons out from underneath the tank coil. For my receiver, I had an old U.S. war surplus BC-794 (Hammarlund) which was a real heavy clunker. My antenna was a 40-meter dipole strung between bamboo poles. I had so much fun operating CW with this primitive setup. My biggest thrill was working W6's and W7's from Tokyo. I still remember my first U.S. contact, WA6IVN (Ray), who gave me a 569 on 40 meters. I upgraded to a DX-60 my senior year in high school and that really opened up my DX vistas. In order to save money for my radio purchases, I skipped school lunches and pocketed the money. To this day, still haven't told my parents. What a nerd I was!

I came to the U.S. in 1967 to attend college and have stayed here ever since then. The hobby got me into electrical engineering (MIT), but eventually after seven years of EE, I ended up in the medical field. After a hiatus of 26 years, at age 43, I got my U.S. license and got back into ham radio with a vengeance. I sure missed it! Thank you, Leo, for bringing back those cherished memories of yesteryear.

Kaz Soong (K8KS)
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by N0VLJ on January 15, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, oh yes! Thanks for the great reminiscing. But; didja ever, with the hamshack there in your bedroom, leave the knife switch ungrounded and then go to bed and have a mid summer's night thunderboomer blow through your QTH and, as you lay in bed, with your on-growing myopia at twelve years of age, see a burst of electrons jump the gap of that three way porceline device from the ant and either the rcvr or xmtr and because you knew just enough about ohms law (and the FCC!) to respect and fear both of them beyond all normal logic you just lay there and hoped for the best rather than get up and try to ground that sucker? Yeah?! Well, I did too!
Bob N0VLJ - ex WN/WA0BMV 1962
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by NV4T on January 16, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
These articles bring nostalgic tears to my eyes. I got started in 1958 with an old Hallicraafters S-41G reciver ( actually it was better than the later S-38!) and homebrew 6L6 tri-tet rig from the 1949 Handbook. worked many a station with that as a Novice, didn't even know that it was QRP then, nor that my antenna had a terrible SWR(what was that back then?).
I eventually worked my way up to a Johnson Adventurer, and HQ-100, went off to college, etc, but have alwys managed to have some kind of rig. Probasble the most memorablewas the one I used in Medical School --- a BC-459 and receiver consisting of a BC453 with homemade converter, all stuffed into an old hospital nightstand. My antenna was a dipole strung up vertically rom the roof to the ground on the side of the apartment (coincidentally the 4th floor I lived on was the center of a full sized 40 meter vertical dipole! Man that was the ultimate for an impoverished student in those days! Oh well, enough of "the good old days".

73, Bill NV4T
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by WA9PWP on January 17, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Good stuff Leo!
I am same age but got started at age 17 thru a
high school "Radio Club". Bought a used stn from
someone, a DX-60 and Hallicrafters S20R/Q multiplier.
Spent many late nights pounding the brass with that setup! Upgraded to general, I was king of the hill
when I found a used HG-10B VFO! Still love CW..

73, Paul WA9PWP
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by K4EQ on January 21, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the nostalgic trip down memory lane. I, too, was first licensed in 1960 and was KN8WHB. My station consisted of a DX-20 xmtr and an AR-3 rcvr. My only rock was for 7184 kc. I temporarily borrowed one I could use on 15 meters, but when I operated on that band I wiped out all the old TVs my neighbors were using (21 mc IFs). So it was back to 40. Nevertheless, I still look back at my Novice days as some of the most fun I've had in this great hobby.
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by N9PSR on February 3, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I've really enjoyed reading the various intorductions you fellows had to ham radio. My first intro to ham radio was in the late 70's early 80's, thank you Caroline Keene and the author of the "Hardy Boys"!!, but what really got me going on this wonderful hobby was when I was Illinois Visualy Handicapped Institute (I.V.H.I.) in Chicago. I was assigned a room with Tom KA9UAE (now KF9HL)and his Leader Dog Cocoa. We spent namy a evening doing Q&A about guide dogs and Ham radio till the wee- and sometimes all night- hours. After 14 years Tom is still one of my closest friends and mentors!
My first ticket was a no-code tech and my first "rig"- if you want to call it that- was an HTX 202. Now I have two of them and have promised one to my 5 year old daughter upon reciept of her ticket (after she learns how to read). One of the proudest moments was at picnic last fall when she told Captain Hansen- my Military Science Instructor- that she "wanted to be a ham so she could talk on the radio with her daddy"!! I've suggested to my wife that she get a ticket, but not my daughter. LOL LOL Kids say the darndest things!
I am newly upgraded to a General license and an Icom 706MkII with the optional voice synth so it will read off the frequency and mode the rig is in. This last feature is vital to me as I am 95 percent blind and work with a guide dog. Wish me luck on 10 Feb, 2001 as I will be attempting to pass the Extra exam.
Thanks for listening
Wayne M. Scace & Leader Dog Sequoia
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by K4IBZ on November 27, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Hello, Leo

I enjoyed your story and alll the others that commented. I also started out as a Novice in the 60s on a very limited budget. My first transmitter was a 6L6 xtal colpitts osc. built on a cigar box with the 5u4 power supply built on a seperate cigar box. My receiver was a Hallicrafters S-120.

I also set up a big knife switch for the antenna TR switch.I guess we all got this same idea for antenna switch over from watching old mad scientist horror movies.

My novice tickett finally arrived I was WN4OOL. I must have called CQ for 8 days before I finally made my first contact with a station in Texas, who said he could barely copy me.

I knew something was wrong with my antenna, so I called my Elmer, Carson Dueberry (K4IBZ). He felt sorry for me, cause my transmitter looked like an explosion in a spagetti factory and my antenna was just a random piece of wire tied to the center conductor of the coax, with the braid just out there with nothing tied to it. Well after all I was just a Novice I didn't know any better.

Carson gave me a 40 mtr. coax bazooka dipole and sold me a Johnson Viking Adventurer and a BC-348J Receiver.

I was in hog heaven and now every time I called CQ I would have pile ups.

I'm sure I must have worked all states with that set up within the year of my novice. I passed my General in 1964, While living In Downers Grove, Illinois for a brief six months and got WA9LGL.

I kept my BC-348J Rcvr. but sold my Johnson Adventurer at a ham fest there and bought a Heathkit DX-40, Heath VF1 VFO. and Astatic JT-30 Microphone and was QRV on AM Phone.

I came back to W4 Land in 1965 and picked up the call WA4YCO.I then enlisted in the Air force and took my DX-40 and BC-388 rcvr. with me every where I served during my 20 year career in the Air Force.

Needless to say I have had many call signs in those 20 years with the Air Force.

I just wanted to let you know I still have and use my DX-40,VF1 VFO and BC-348 rcvr to this day and now I'm honored that I can continue my Elmers memory,as I was able to pick up his call sign (K4IBZ) under the Vanity Call Sign Program.


Bill K4IBZ

The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by WA8UOC on December 5, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
You do bring back memories. I started working at Heath Company in 1965 in the service department. Some of my best memories were the years I spent servicing all the Heath ham gear...DX-20, DX-35, DX-40, DX-100, HX-10 etc. I spent 30 years working for Heath Company and you couldn't have found a better company or a better bunch of hams. Heath was a real family company.

The Heath moto was "We won't let you fail" and they would do all they could to make sure your kit worked. I plan to have a DX-35 or DX-40 back on the air with my Hallicrafters SX-100 that I still have in working order since 1957.

It's good to see so much Heath gear still in use.

RE: The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by 5B4JF on June 24, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Already a keen SWL of some years, I arrived on Cyprus in July 1962, with my wife of 6 weeks, as a young R.A.F. airman. It did not take me long to seek out the local hams and study began for my 5B4 licence. The exam was eventually taken and passed and later, the morse test. Not being very wealthy, the DX40 plus the VF1U VFO was all I could afford for a transmitter and that, together with an AR88D served me well for the 2 1/2 years I was on Cyprus.

The 5B4 callsign, of course was very popular and many QSOs with stateside were made. Using this rig over 120 countries were worked using dipoles and a 10/15m cubical quad.

It was during this time that I went to the remote island of Socotra (Soqotra) in the Indian Ocean. Then it was part of the British Aden Protectorate but is now under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Yemen. I operated from Socotra for 2 months as VS9SJF, with the DX40/AR88 and no one has been able to operate from the island since so it is one of the top islands for IOTA.

Have a look at my website at and you will see my rig there. Following the Socotra visit I returned to the UK where the same rig served me for a few more years before I moved up to an HW100 and later a TS830s. I am now ex-G3UCQ, 5B4JF and VS9SJF. I still think of the DX40 with great affection.
73s es gud dx.
The Novice Ticket Arrives (1960)  
by K5VVV on September 26, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Leo- I happened to do a search on my call (K5VVV) tonight and found your article. I checked my first logbook and confirmed that we had a QSO from 2:20pm to 3:05pm on June 2, 1960, when you were KN5AVJ and I was KN5VVV at age 16. Frequency was 7.178 Megacycles (this was before the switch to Megaherz.) My CW RST report to you was 599, and you gave me the same RST. I listed you in the log as Leo in Kingsville, Texas. My QTH was Quemado, Texas, which is on the Rio Grande between Eagle Pass and Del Rio (not in the Rio Grande Valley but Quemado is in a valley carved out by the Rio Grande river.) My frist transmitter was a one-tube 6L6 running 10 watts. My first receiver was a BC453 surplus receiver with a converter. I used my mother's cloths line for a transmitting antenna and had wire looped around the kitchen ceiling as a receiving antenna. I later replaced that setup with a Heathkit DX-40 transmitter and Heath AR-3 receiver and dipole antennas up about 40 feet. The AR-3 drifted and changed frequency if you touched the table it was on. My father (now N5UAA) bought me a Hallicrafters SX-100 receiver to replace the AR-3 and that was a big improvement. Thanks for posting your article and bringing back some great memories. 73, Jim K5VVV
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